Minneapolis based General Mills Inc. is planning to start selling this summer four dinner kits which are developed under their Chinese food brand Wanchai Ferry. They include sweet & sour chicken, spicy garlic chicken, Kung Pao chicken and cashew chicken.
With the U.S. packaged food industry growing at only about 3% a year, most food companies look for growth in emerging markets such as China. But now General Mills and a few others are starting to view their global operations as a two-way street, allowing them to bring high-margin products to the U.S. that tap into consumers' growing taste for more exotic fare.
The dinner kits will look like Chinese take out boxes. They will contain everything you will need except the chicken and the cooking oil.
General Mills, which derived $1.84 billion of its $12.5 billion in fiscal 2006 revenue from sales abroad, decided to bring Wanchai Ferry to the U.S. because it didn't want to miss an opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of Chinese food.
General Mills has a Mexican brand, Old El Paso, but didn't have a Chinese brand in the U.S., says Chris O'Leary, executive vice president and COO of General Mills' International division.
The company decided to use a brand they already own.
In 1977, Madame Kin Wo Chong started selling dumplings from a wooden cart on Hong Kong's Wanchai Ferry pier, eventually becoming known as Hong Kong's "dumpling queen." In 1985, she formalized her business with the creation of the Wanchai Ferry Peking Dumpling Co. and in 1997 entered into a joint venture with Pillsbury, which General Mills later acquired.
"My vision is to bring Chinese traditional dim sum and dumplings to every part of the world, making Wanchai Ferry a global brand," Madame Chong said through an interpreter.
Madame Chong, was involved in the final stage of the design, signing off on the flavors. She is a consultant to General Mills
The product has been three years in planning which involved research teams in China, Europe and the U.S.
A challenge was to figure out how to keep the ingredients fresh. The sauces are in vacuum-sealed packages and the other ingredients such as bamboo shoots and water chestnuts are canned in water.
Because China has mounting criticism from Western consumers over tainted food and drug exports General Mills spokesman, Tom Forsythe, says the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots are bought from China but are shipped to the U.S. to be processed and canned.
Officials from General Mills visited the supplier of those ingredients many times and conducted assessments of the supplier's management and food-safety programs, according to Mr. Forsythe. The company continues to use a third-party auditor to conduct regular safety checks.
There was the pet food scandal where a chemical that was used in pesticides and plastics was added to wheat gluten because it was cheaper and thousands of cats and dogs were poisoned and died. Some of the tainted foods was fed to pigs and chickens that were for human consumption.
China has been polluted with a corrupt government and most of their business decisions seem to be what the bottom line is.
If you are not happy about General Mill's decision you can call them at their toll free number 1-800-328-1144.
Should our food be imported from third world countries who do not have our standards just because it is cheaper?